Of the various landmarks to be found in rural Ireland, surely one of the most poignant is the Cillín – literally the little church, but a name usually associated with burial sites. They are common features, often one for every few townlands – a local place where stillborn children and others were buried. They’d be remembered still by local people, perhaps a corner of a field that is never ploughed or sometimes surrounded by a rough bank or wall. The photo here shows a rough granite cross but typically there are no grave markers, just a patch of grass.
In some cases they might be considered consecrated ground but more typically they’d have been used for the burial of unbaptised children, paupers & suicides etc. People who wouldn’t have made it to the parish graveyard, either too poor or not fit for the kingdom of heaven. In other instances, it might just have been a matter of convenience like a graveyard in the garden – a handy local place that could be visited. Indeed John McKenna gives a vivid description of Ireland not long ago where his father buried such children – a radio documentary broadcast in 1995. Listen here.
So next time you are out and about, examine the map and landscape for the Cillín. Stop by and pay your respects in these quiet, silent & peaceful places.